Campus News

Bowdoin Issues a Five-Year Report on its Commitment to Diversity

Story posted November 15, 1998


Nov. 30, 1998, BRUNSWICK, Maine -- The College has come a long way in its effort to diversify the faculty, student body and academic programs, but there still is work to be done, according to the 'Final Evaluation of the Bowdoin Diversity Implementation Plan' circulated campus-wide and to trustees in October.

The report, written by Betty Trout-Kelly, Assistant to the President on Multicultural Affairs/Affirmative Action Officer, culminates eight years of work. The process starting with Pres. Robert Edwards' appointment of the Diversity Committee in 1990 and its 1992 report, which set an agenda for the existing Multicultural Oversight Committee. In 1994, the Oversight Committee issued a 'Bowdoin Institutional Profile,' which outlined the College's practices at the time. By early 1995, the initiatives outlined in the Institutional Profile had evolved into 'The Bowdoin Diversity Plan,' the College's first campus-wide plan for action regarding diversity.

The Bowdoin Diversity Plan laid out a three-year process for increasing diversity across campus, including changing the methods of employee hiring and training, transforming the curriculum, revising campus policies and practices and tracking the plan's progress through Institutional Research. Bowdoin's concept of and process for creating a diversity plan is being used as a model for the entire University of Maine system, which will implement it individually on each campus. At Bowdoin, the plan has produced a number of tangible and lasting results, including:

-- Adopted the College's first Affirmative Action Plan in 1996.

-- Increased the number of Africana Studies courses from 12 courses to 20 since 1993, and increased the number of cross-listed and interdisciplinary courses.

-- Instituted a number of training sessions on sensitivity, sexual harassment and recruiting a more diverse staff.

-- Established funds to help retain students of color.

-- Increased the offering of cultural and ethnic programming: A working group of faculty and staff on 'Black Women in the Academy' brought black women to campus for lectures and faculty seminars; Martin Luther King Day now is celebrated as a campus-wide tradition; seminars were offered on 'Enriching the Classroom: Placing Race, Gender and Class into Our Curriculum' and 'Creating a More Inclusive Environment in the Classroom,' and the Museum of Art offered a number of multi-cultural exhibits and events.

-- Started implementing and participating in community outreach programs to support people of color living in Maine. That participation comes in the form of administrative support, student mentors and tutoring, statewide initiatives and inviting students of color to visit the Bowdoin campus.

-- Created a committee to help make the Colleges buildings more accessible to the physically challenged.

-- Established a Task Force for Improving the Status of Women at Bowdoin, and appointed a Special Assistant to the President for Gender Equity.

The need for, and interest in, these programs is clear. A first-year seminar on racism attracted more than 150 students hoping to register for the 16 spaces available this fall; that overload resulted in the addition of another class this spring.

But despite laying the groundwork for change, the College has a long way to go to create a truly diverse campus, Trout-Kelly says.

Since 1993, the number of African American faculty has increased from five to seven; the number of Hispanic American faculty has increased from zero to four. But these numbers still represent only a fraction of the total faculty, which numbered 166 in 1993 and 187 in 1997.

The number of tenured women faculty has increased from 20 in 1993 to 29 in 1997; but women on a tenure track have decreased in number from 19 to 14 during the same time period.

The report concludes that the College must continue working in the areas of diversity programming, campus-wide dialogue, including student input on committees, participation in state and regional diversity initiatives, training and seminars, and instituting policies and mechanisms that make the College accountable for its stated goals on diversity.

What has changed since 1992 is that Bowdoin has moved from intellectual dialogue to concrete strategies for implementing change, the report says. Additionally, Bowdoin has begun to ask the right questions for identifying those issues that are pertinent to the success of recruiting and retaining students and employees from diverse backgrounds.

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